|Carissa, Natal Plum - Carissa grandiflora
Origin: Southern Africa (KwaZulu/Natal)
Common names: natal plum, common carissa
Pronunciation: kuh-RISS-uh gran-dif-FLOR-uh
Height: 6-10 feet
Leaf: evergreen; glossy, dark green foliage
Flower: white, summer flowering; pleasant fragrance
berry; red, thin skin; flesy
Light requirement: full sun to light shade
tolerances: clay; sand; acidic; alkaline; loam
Drought tolerance: high
Pest resistance: long-term health usually not affected by pests
Plant spacing: 36-60"
Roots: usually not a problem
Invasive potential: not known to be invasive
the plant has very sharp spines; some may find the latex
Carissa grandiflora is one of Florida's and California's very best seaside shrubs (Fig. 1). This moderately fast-growing, evergreen shrub has lustrous, leathery, rich green, oval leaves and spines along its branches. It is hard to find a plant with darker green leaves. Flowers are somewhat fragrant, white, and star-shaped. The bright red, edible, plum-shaped fruit tastes like cranberries and can be used to make jam. Flowers and fruit are quite showy and are often borne on the plant simultaneously. 1
macrocarpa is a ground cover: Carissa
macrocarpa Dwarf Natal Plum
from the University of Florida pdf
It has opposite thorns on the stem that branch into two sharp points. Leaves are bright green and round. The flowers are 30mm-50mm (1½" to 2") in diameter, white and fragrant. The 5 petals are twisted to the right. 5
The fruits of
the carissa (Carissa grandiflora)
are oval or round and vary in size and shape. A typical fruit is
approximately an inch in diameter and one and a half inches long. The
skin of the fully ripe fruit is bright crimson streaked with darker
red; it is thin and bruises easily. The flesh is deep red or crimson
with white mottling. In the center there are approximately twelve small
brown flat seeds.
the eye. 2
The fruit production peaks around Thanksgiving and some people favor it over cranberries. If picked too soon, the flesh will exude very acrid white latex (Fig. 4).
blooms most profusely in early spring, but produces a few flowers
throughout the year. The flowers bloom singly or in small terminal
cymes at the end of the branches. Flowers are star-shaped, fragrant,
white, and approximately 2 inches broad. The fruit matures in
approximately 60 days, yielding most of its fruit in the summer.
Carissa is not usually available in commercial markets. It is most
often grown in South Florida. 2
may be eaten fresh but it is more enjoyable when cooked. The cooked
juice and pulp have an unpleasant milky-red appearance but become an
attractive bright red when cooked with sugar. The jelly has a lovely
red color with a delicate, characteristic flavor suggestive of
raspberry. The sauce, made by straining or sieving the stewed fruit and
cooking it with sugar, is preferred by some to cranberry jelly.
Natural Growth habitt
our coastal areas, carissa has been used for a hedge since it is highly
salt-tolerant and can be planted in exposed locations with little
chance of being damaged. One disadvantage is the shrub's large spines
which are forked at the end, sometimes exceeding two inches in length.
Because of its spiny nature, carissa has long been used as a privacy
hedge or people-stopper, since an attempt to penetrate a hedge of
carissa is rare. It should not be used in areas where small children
frequent. While most people use carissa as clipped hedges forming a
dense screen, it is not uncommon for it to attain a height of 20 feet
at maturity. 4
Natal Plum will tolerate a variety of soils and exposures and only needs light pruning. It makes a nice, full foundation shrub. While it thrives in full sun, natal plum can adapt to fairly heavy shade and requires only moderate watering and fertilization. Plant on three to six-foot centers for a hedge or mass planting, closer for the compact cultivars. 1
By seed, expect germinatation in about 2 weeks, but the seedlings grow very slowly at first and are highly variable. Vegetative propagation is preferred and can be done easily by air-layering, ground-layering, or shield-budding. Cuttings root poorly unless the tip of a young branchlet is cut half-way through and left attached to the plant for 2 months. After removal and planting in sand, it will root in about 30 days. Grafting onto seedlings of the karanda (q.v.) has considerably increased fruit yield.
Seedlings may begin to produce fruit in 2 years; cuttings earlier. 1
The selections 'Fancy', 'Gifford' and 'Torrey Pines' are said to be of good fruit bearing quality.
Note: All parts of Natal plum are poisonous except for the ripe fruits. Even the seeds within the fruits are said to be poisonous. Natal plum should not be planted close to pedestrian traffic because of its sharp spines. 3
Bonsai; foundation; screen; border; mass planting; container or above-ground planter; fruit; espalier; ground cover; superior hedge; small parking lot islands (< 100 square feet in size); medium-sized parking lot islands (100-200 square feet in size); large parking lot islands (> 200 square feet in size). 2
Diseases and Pests
Die back is common. Spider mites, thrips and whiteflies, and occasionally scale insects, attack young plants, especially in nurseries and in the shade.
A number of fungus diseases have been recorded in Florida; algal leaf spot and green scurf caused by Cephaleuros virescens; leaf spot from Alternaria sp., Botryosphaeria querquum, Fusarium sp., Gloeosporium sp., Phyllosticta sp. and Colletotrichum gloeosporioides which also is responsible for anthracnose; stem gall from Macrophoma sp., Nectria sp., Phoma sp., Phomopsis sp., and both galls and cankers from Sphaeropsis tumefaciens; dieback caused by Diplodia natalensis and Rhizoctonia solani; thread blight from Rhizoctonia ramicola; root rot resulting from infection by Phytophthora parasitica and Pythium sp. 1
Netlike, wavy, superficial colonies; algal leaf spot on Camilla
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1 Gilman, Edward F. "Carissa grandiflora Natal Plum, Common Carissa." edis.ifas.ufl.edu. This document is FPS107, one of a series of the Environmental Horticulture, Florida Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida. Publication Oct. 1999. Revised May 2007. Reviewed Feb. 2014. Web. 3 Jan. 2015.
2 Simonne, Amy, Bobroff, Linda B., Cooper, Anne, Poirier, Sandra, Murphy Mildred, Osward, Mary Jo, and Procise, Chris. "South Florida Tropicals: Carissa (Natal Plum)." edis.ifas.ufl.edu. This document is Fact Sheet FCS 8522, one of a series of the Department of Family, Youth and Community Sciences, UF/IFAS Extension. Publication date: July 2004. First published as SS-HEC-12, May 1993. Revised Aug. 2007. Reviewed Nov. 2010 and Nov.2013. Web. 3 Jan. 2015.
3 Christman, Steve. "Carissa macrocarpa." floridata.com. 4 Dec. 2000. Updated 9 Nov. 2003. Web. 4 Jan. 2015.
4 Joyner, Gene. "Carissa". rfcarchives.org.au. Archives of the Rare Fruit Council of Australia. June 1984. Web. 4 Jan. 2015.
5 Goebel, Roger. "Carissa". rfcarchives.org.au. Archives of the Rare Fruit Council of Australia. RFCA Capricornia Branch. June 1984. Web. 4 Jan. 2015.
Fig. 1,8 Carr, Gerald,D. "Autocarpus altilis Moraceae." N.d. botany.hawaii.edu. University of Hawaii, Botany Department, Manoa Campus Plants. Web. 3 Jan. 2015.
Fig. 2,17 Starr, Forest and Kim. "Carissa macrocarpa thorn". 2002. starrenvironmental.com. Kahului, Maui. Web. 4 Jan. 2015.
Fig. 3 Wmpearl. "Carissa grandiflora (natal plum): leaf, flower, thorns and fruit." 2008. commons.wikimedia.org. Web. 4 Jan. 2015.
Fig. 4,16,18,19 MR. "Carissa macrocarpa." N.d. toptropicals.com. Top Tropicals Tropical Plant Catalog. Web. 4 Jan. 2015.
Fig. 5,6 JMK. "Cross section of a ripe fruit of a Big num-num at the TUT campus, Pretoria." 2013. commons.wikimedia.org. Web. 4 Jan. 2015.
Fig. 7,10,11,12,13,14, Kwan. "Carissa macrocarpa, Natal plum." 2009. natureloveyou.sg. Web. 3 Jan. 2015.
"Species Distribution Map: Carissa macrocarpa." N.d. florida.plantatlas.usf.edu. Atlas of Florida Vascular Plants. Web. 4 Jan. 2015.
Fig. 9 Girard, Dennis. "Carissa macrocarpa." N.d. florida.plantatlas.usf.edu. Wunderlin, R. P., and B. F. Hansen. 2008. Atlas of Florida Fig. Fig. 15 Vascular Plants. [S. M. Landry and K. N. Campbell (application development), Florida Center for Community Design and Research.] Institute for Systematic Botany, University of South Florida, Tampa. Web. 4 Jan. 2015.
Fig. 20 Thornton, Holly. "Netlike, wavy, superficial colonies; algal leaf spot on Camilla." 2006. bugwood.org. University of Georgia. Web. 5 Jan. 2015.
3 Jan. 2015 LR. Updated 12 Oct. 2015 LR